This is the third major study of general practice activity in Australia that allows a comparison of rural and metropolitan general practice. The first was a major national survey of general practice in 1969–74 conducted by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (Bridges-Webb & RACGP 1976) from which a small secondary comparison of rural and metropolitan general practice was made. The second was a specific comparative study of practice patterns in rural and metropolitan areas in the three eastern states of Australia in 1990 91 (Britt et al. 1993). In order to measure the effectiveness of programs designed to improve the plight of both patients and practitioners from rural and remote areas, data are needed on service provision and the care provided by general practitioners.


The aims of this study were to determine the extent to which rural and metropolitan general practice differed in 1998–2000 in terms of GP and patient characteristics, the type of work undertaken, the characteristics of the patients at encounter, the patients’ reasons for encounter, the morbidity managed, treatments provided including pharmacological, clinical and procedural management, tests ordered/undertaken and referrals.